WHO calls for urgent action to deal with global hypertension crisis

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WHO calls for urgent action to deal with global hypertension crisis
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a stark warning about the global hypertension crisis, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive action to combat this pervasive health issue.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30 to 79 worldwide, with the majority living in low- and middle-income countries.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, highlighted the alarming statistics.

“Approximately 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware of their condition, and less than half of those diagnosed receive treatment. Only about 21% have their hypertension under control."

This lack of awareness and treatment is contributing significantly to the global burden of disease, leading to millions of premature deaths each year.

 Understanding Hypertension

Hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher on two separate days. It is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Despite its severity, many people with hypertension do not exhibit symptoms, making regular blood pressure checks essential for early detection and management.

Risk factors for hypertension include older age, genetics, obesity, physical inactivity, a high-salt diet, and excessive alcohol consumption. Lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet, increased physical activity, and quitting tobacco, can significantly lower blood pressure. However, many individuals may still require medication to manage their condition effectively.

WHO’s response and global initiatives

In response to this global health challenge, WHO has implemented several initiatives aimed at reducing the prevalence of hypertension. One of the key targets is to achieve a 33% reduction in the prevalence of hypertension by 2030. This goal is part of the broader effort to combat noncommunicable diseases worldwide.

To support countries in achieving this target, WHO has released updated guidelines on the pharmacological treatment of hypertension. These guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for the initiation and management of hypertension treatment, including target blood pressure levels and follow-up intervals.

In partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations, WHO launched the Global Hearts Initiative in 2016. This initiative includes the HEARTS technical package, which outlines strategies for improving cardiovascular health through lifestyle counseling, access to essential medicines, and team-based care.

Since 2017, WHO has also partnered with Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, to support national governments in implementing standardized hypertension control programs. These programs have demonstrated the effectiveness of protocol-based treatment models, with 7.5 million people in low- and middle-income countries receiving treatment under these initiatives.

Moving forward

WHO urges all countries to intensify efforts to combat hypertension through public health measures, improved access to healthcare, and patient education. Regular blood pressure checks, lifestyle modifications, and adherence to prescribed medications are critical components of effective hypertension management.

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